by staff volunteer Wai February 15, 2017
On February 12, 2017, Jason Avraham, who has served as one of the nine distinguished members on the board of the Mary K. Yap Foundation (www.myanmarorphans.org), toured the Blessed Mary of the Passion Convent Myittamon Youth Development Charity Shelter. This was a rare opportunity for Jason to visit one of the few resident orphanages in the Yangon region. What makes this facility different from other centers is that this shelter resulted from the powerful Cyclone Nargis in 2008 that killed more than 138,000 people in the Eastern Bank of the Ayerawaddy River and displaced countless families.
The journey to the Myittamon orphan house takes approximately two hours from Yangon, traveling a little over 120 kilometers to the remote location of the Hmawbi Township. Jason was introduced to Sister Rosemary, the head of the center, as well as all of the children residing at the orphanage. Jason, in particular, spent time with Than Than Htwe (age 13) the girl who have been selected as this year’s 2017 candidate for the Mary K. Yap Foundation’s High School Diploma program. (see http://marykyapfoundation.org/high-school-diploma-for-orphans).
Jason’s son, Kyle, an NYU graduate in Yangon for the first time, decided with his father to forego exploring popular tourist destinations and instead to visit Myittamon. Jason and Kyle enjoyed meeting the children. They encouraged them with motivational lessons about life and what it takes for them to strive for excellence, as well as just having fun with them.
Jason believes that every child deserves an opportunity to succeed and that education plays a key role in making this happen. By providing the children with the chance to learn the English language, it advances the prospects for them to study abroad. "No child chooses to live in a sheltered environment,” Jason said. After raising two adopted daughters from Romania and Kyle, his biological son, Jason found additional fulfillment by extending his attention and support to nonprofit organizations committed to empowering vulnerable and marginalized children. "Our role as good citizens is to support and enable every child so that they can live up to their full potential.”
The Myittamon shelter provides care for 31 children. Some of the children are from single-parent homes that do not have the financial means to support them. Many youth across Myanmar face extreme struggle and daily hardship for survival in a country where almost half of the population lives in poverty. The inequality in the education system for disadvantaged children is stark. According to government rules, students in the ages representing Grade 8th, Grade 9th and 10th (the last 3 years of high school in Myanmar) should be equipped with the basic ability and skillsets to converse and write in English. Without an adequate support system and proper education, however, orphans and other marginalized children lack the confidence to try to learn the English language.
Besides providing shelter and basic necessities, Myittamon is charged with helping a child develop academically. Jason added, "The school community has become the dominant social influence for developing these wonderful children. It’s an honor to associate with the Mary K. Yap Foundation because it recognizes the exceptionally important role it plays in forming a child’s identity and shaping one's life." Jason particularly enjoyed playing English word games with the residents.
One of the initiatives of the Mary K. Yap Foundation, the ‘Lending a Hand’ program, is welcoming and inviting youth who want to volunteer their services. This is an opportunity to work with children and help them grow to become responsible and productive citizens. Please visit (http://marykyapfoundation.org/lending-a-hand)